The digital campfire: Identifying engaging stories to create authentic connections

Carrie McIlveen

18 October 2018

With fall here, it’s the perfect time for a campfire—conjuring up childhood memories of sitting around the warm glow, roasting marshmallows, and, of course, telling stories.

Today, stories have gone far beyond the campsite. They are at the core of memorable marketing campaigns. Companies now use content marketing as a powerful relationship tool for creating authentic connections and engaging and building stronger customer relationships.

However, marketers beware… some campaigns only ignite spikes of awareness that fade quickly. How can you avoid this situation?

Two of the biggest questions marketers must ask themselves: How do you reach your key audiences at moments that matter most to them? And how do you craft a content strategy that increases engagement to drive long-term sales?

The simple answer to both questions: good content and smart insights.

As a CMO or member of your content marketing team, you need to know what trends your customers want to hear about from you. Do you know what your audience is interested in? If you feel like you’re taking shots in the dark to plan your marketing strategy, it’s time to look deeper. 


The Consumer Tale

 Start by unearthing the most inspiring stories by partnering closely with your Insights teams. Technology has evolved to the point where they can collect, track, and use data from implicit and explicit sources. They’ll uncover deep knowledge of your audience and understand user behavior through social monitoring and analysis, linguistic modeling, and simple analytics.

These tools will reveal how your customers truly perceive the world by analyzing the data they are generating. Insights will include the underlying motivations and fears that they themselves don’t realize are driving their own actions—the real voices of the mass consumer.


The Storytellers

As Insights teams forage for inspiring stories and deliver audience data to a small army of marketer “storytellers,” they can spark interest by identifying the themes, content stories, and approaches that matter to customers most. These storytellers include writers, editors, designers, and developers who together can ensure that the right customer-centric storyline is developed. According to Forrester, storytelling is your most important data-to-insights activator. Adopting this data-driven strategy can result in quick and relevant content about the world outside of your company to help “keep brands real,” while also aligning with business goals.


Science of Emotion

To truly engage with your audience, you need the “why?” All purchasing decisions are motivated by a combination of rational and emotional triggers. Humans are wired to feel before we think, according to Buffer. For consumers, the emotional triggers may outweigh the rational ones. Do you know whether your company is delivering value? Do you know how you are going to create a warm and inviting place for your customers to be a part of your brand? Without knowing this, you will lack direction and certainly won’t be able to build an authentic community to connect with. 


The Power Of Community

Clearly, consumers’ trust has become more crucial for a brand’s success. PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey 2018 revealed that building a sense of community is a powerful approach. Consumers trust the opinions of their community on social media because they regard them as authentic and helpful. These tribal connections play an important role in opportunities for business growth. Think beyond “customer.” More meaningful connections within communities will win deep loyalty.

Engage your audience with free-flowing, two-way dialogues that are personalized, and offer a steady distribution of relevant and informative content. They will produce long-term benefits that nurture a community of people who follow your content updates and regularly engage.

A helpful tactic is to think of your website and social media as something to be "experienced." Your content should answer the basic question, "Am I giving customers the details they need to make a purchasing decision?" Providing consistent and compelling content will help to build awareness and create a preference for your brand.

The more brands understand the value of data-driven, customer-centric content—and the need to dedicate time, effort, and resources to create it—the better they will be at exceeding customer expectations and gaining a competitive advantage.  


Experiences Last a Lifetime

A good customer experience should feel effortless and personalized. With good content and smart insights, you will lay the foundation to make customer-based decisions to tell better stories, personalize, and extend your reach to places where your audiences spend their time.

Continue to create moments of inspiration to send your consumers on a journey that they feel compelled to act, read on, and share for years to come. Businesses that can create and deliver content that consistently speaks to their evolving questions and concerns at the right time during the buyer’s journey will gain advocates who carry the torch of your “digital campfire.”